ST. LOUIS PARK, Minn. — Some of the world’s top hockey players will need an extra piece of gear. The Olympics and World Championships will now require neck guards after the shocking. The Hibbing native and former UMD Bulldog died during a professional game in England last month when another player’s skate cut his neck.
Five-year-old Jameson is laced up and ready to go. Though he’s just learning to skate now, he hopes to one day play hockey like his father. Like many parents of hockey players, Nick Trumble said the news of Johnson’s death heightened fears about the safety of the sport.
“You’re risking your life every time you go out on the ice and one freak thing can end your life,” Trumble said.
Growing up, Trumble said concerns over concussions were on the forefront. Like helmets and other required gear now, he thinks neck guards will soon become the norm for players too.
“I’m going to be putting him (Jameson) with a neck guard when he gets into hockey because I know how I played, I know how the sport was when I was growing up, and it hasn’t changed,” he said.
“The neck has always been a vulnerable area, and it’s long been a discussion,” said Benilde-St. Margaret’s Boys Varsity Hockey Coach Ken Pauly.
Coach Pauly said more of his high school players have chosen to wear neck guards since Johnson’s death.
“About 4-5 have them on now that didn’t before,” Coach Pauly said.
He thinks more organizations will follow in the International Ice Hockey Federation’s footsteps in mandating them.
“You have a lot of governing bodies, so just because one requires it doesn’t mean all do. However, you tend to see a domino effect with something like that,” he said.
He thinks if younger players see the professionals wearing them, they will be more inclined to as well.
“I think you’ll see the technology with it just get better too,” he said.
It’s still unclear when the neck guard mandate for international play will go into effect. The organization said it’s working with its suppliers since demand remains high after Johnson’s death.